What is this course about?
This is an academic Computer Science course, in which candidates develop a thorough understanding of computer systems and the technologies that underpin them. The course is primarily assessed through two examinations at the end of the course; however there is a substantial project unit in Year 13 where you will develop your own computer program to solve a problem of your choosing.
The A level Computer Science course has three components. Components 01 and 02 are exams that you study for across both years of the course and sit at then of Year 13. Component 03 is a programming project that is completed in Year 13 alongside the two exam units.
Component 01 - Computer Systems: An examined unit (2 hours and 30 minute paper worth 40% of the course) in which you will learn about:
- Components of a computer and their uses
- Types of software and the different approaches used to develop it
- How data is exchanged between different systems
- How data is represented and stored within different structures
- Different algorithms that can be applied to these structures
- The moral, ethical and cultural opportunities and risks of technology
- Legislation surrounding the use of computers
- Ethical issues that can arise from the use of computers.
Component 02 - Algorithms and programming: An examined unit (2 hours and 30 minute paper worth 40% of the course) in which you will learn about:
- What is meant by computational thinking
- How computers can be used to solve problems and programs can be written to solve them
- The use of algorithms to describe problems and standard algorithms
By the end of Component 02 you will be able to use algorithms to describe problems and analyse a problem by identifying its component parts. In the course of this unit you will learn to create Graphical User Interface driven programs using an Object Oriented programming language, making this unit excellent preparation for Component 03.
Component 03 - Programming Project: A practical portfolio based unit (worth 20% of the course) in which you will analyse, design, develop, test, evaluate and document a program to solve a problem chosen by you. You may develop your solution using any of the following programming languages:
- C family of languages (e.g. C# C+ etc.)
- Visual Basic
The underlying approach to the project is to apply the principles of computational thinking to a practical coding problem. In previous years candidates have undertaken a wide variety of projects including making a computerised guitar tuner, a re-implementation of the arcade game Pac-Man and creating an artificial intelligence capable of playing chess.
What might this course lead on to?
Further study of and careers in Computer Science, Computer Systems Engineering, App Development, Networks, Artificial Intelligence, Games Design, Web Development, Electronic Engineering, Maths or Physics. 75% of students completing this course in 2016 left school to begin a degree in a Computer Science-related discipline.
Students must have gained a 5 or higher in GCSE Computer Science or have achieved a 6 or higher in GCSE Maths and have prior experience of programming outside of school.